OZ Top Spot #11 – Griffiths Island, Port Fairy, Victoria

Last Updated on April 12, 2019 by Red Nomad OZ

Is that a lighthouse, or are you just glad to see me?!  Griffiths Island, Port Fairy
Griffiths Island and Causeway, Port Fairy, Victoria, Australia

Apart from the snake on the beach, our island circumnavigation stroll was pleasant, albeit uneventful.

But a frisson of danger changes everything – and an element of uncertainty elevates the ordinary, or even just plain old pleasant, into something more remarkable, doesn’t it?

Or is that just me?

Griffiths Island lighthouse from Port Fairy foreshore, Victoria, Australia
Griffiths Island lighthouse from Port Fairy foreshore, Victoria, Australia

Whether Griffiths Island, at the mouth of Port Fairy’s Moyne River on Victoria’s Great Ocean Road, is a miracle of engineering or a fine example of ecological vandalism depends on whether you’re a colonialist or an environmentalist.

But the amalgamation of Griffiths and Rabbit islands in the mid-1800s via a breakwater, causeways, retaining walls and riverbed silt today provides a breeding haven for Short-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris), commonly known as mutton birds – an imaginative name bestowed by early settlers in honour of the main use to which they were put.

Muttonbird nesting burrow, Griffiths Island
Muttonbird nesting burrow

The mutton bird bodies littering the roadside aren’t due to hunters and gatherers these days, however. After flying 15,000 km from their Aleutian Islands/Kamchatka Peninsula winter home, the central Pacific’s buffeting south east winds claim many victims. But despite the huge distances, locals advise that the birds arrive in Port Fairy within three days of 22ndSeptember EVERY YEAR!

A ‘lifer’* for keen twitcher** Pilchard, our October 2011 visit was ideal timing – the birds had arrived, but had not yet returned to the sea for their post-mating two week ‘honeymoon’!   According to the Natural Resources and Environment pamphlet ‘Griffiths Island Shearwater Colony’ to which I’m indebted for much of the information in this post, anyway!

Coastal Vegetation, Muttonbird nesting area, Port Fairy
Coastal Vegetation, Muttonbird nesting area, Port Fairy

And to a dedicated twitcher, sighting a dead bird doesn’t count …

But Griffiths Island isn’t just about birds. While no evidence remains of the whaling station, unsuccessful mission and lighthouse keepers’ cottages of yesteryear, the 3km interpretive walking trail passes the shearwater viewing platform and lighthouse before detouring onto the beach.

And the snake.

I would have taken a photo if the uncharacteristically balletic wings of ‘flight’ hadn’t somehow shifted me several metres away, shrieking like a girl, within a split second!

And Pilchard would have identified the snake if only it had uncoiled while he was standing right beside it … despite my reassurance that ‘snake’ was specific enough for me!!

Causeway, Griffiths Island, Port Fairy
Causeway, Griffiths Island, Port Fairy, Victoria, Australia

Enough to send us scuttling back to one of Port Fairy’s two bakeries for a restorative snack!  Although you’re right … it wouldn’t take much!!

On the cusp of the Kanawinka Global Geopark area of volcanic diversity, largest of its kind in the world, and the Bonney Upwelling*** where nutrient-rich water from Antarctica flows onto the continental shelf in certain conditions, Griffiths Island, Port Fairy and surrounds form a unique region of amazing natural phenomena well worth another visit.

And with any luck next time the snakes will stay away!

Griffiths Island Lighthouse, Port Fairy Victoria
Griffiths Island Lighthouse, Port Fairy Victoria

* Lifer = bird never sighted before

** Twitcher = birdwatcher – yes, the feathered variety …

*** Cool names, huh?!

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    1. Actually, depending on when your trip is in December, you might want to consider booking ahead as later in December is the summer school holidays and it’s often VERY busy on the Great Ocean road at that time of year!

  1. @Andresa – Haha! It’s sometimes hard to tell which blog to go to!! But stick around – the virtual tour gets better the longer you stay!
    @Sivinden – as exotic as your landscapes are to me!! It’s like we live on different planets!!
    @diane b – so often we seem to be just passing through, and also vow to return. In the last couple of years we HAVE returned to some of those places – and look forward to more!!

  2. It is a beautiful place. We travelled through there years ago on a bus and we always said we will return by car one day so that we can spend more time in these exotic places. Love your lighthouse shot. We saw mutton birds on Lord Howe Island. They are funny how they crash land in the bushes after being out on the sea rafting all day.

  3. Hi Red!

    Thanks for the comment on my other blog. But that one is no longer updated. hehe. I was using my other email, by mistake when I commented here. lol. Me and my friend are currently enjoying the virtual tour we have here on your blog but to have you show us around in Oz, would be a dream come true!



  4. Hello Red Nomad!

    We’re so glad to find your blog. This is amazing. Australia is definitely one of the countries we want to visit one day and all the photos and the exciting adventures you post here, thrill us all the more! We’d be following all your adventures!


    Ramona and Andresa

  5. @Genie – Thanx! It’s a pleasure to write about such a magnificent spot – but even better to visit for real!
    @(ex)camwhore – FAAAABULOUS! I look forward to inspiring your visit one day!!

  6. What a lovely series of photos. Of all of them, the one of the lighthouse has to be my favorite. Love all the detail and interesting sights you included. Know you had a wonderful time. A fine post this week. genie

  7. @Ebie – Thanx for your company!!
    @Al – OK, you definitely win!! Although somehow, that means you’ve got the worst end of the deal – I would have died of fright!
    @SandyCarlson – It sure beats being without electricity in a showstorm! But then, almost anything would, right?!
    @Sallie – Of course, being a drama queen, I’ve made more of the snake thing than there actually was!
    @Diane – They’re so cool on the inside! I toured one a couple of years ago and was AMAZED at the small space that people actually lived in! But I’d do it just for the address shock value!

  8. @Diane AZ – I was surprised the colours were so intense. A humid day makes all the difference!
    @Riet – Sorry, will send you a link. And isn’t it amazing just how much of the world you can see from your lounge room?!
    @Raphael & Yvonne – Welcome! So great to have you drop in from Switzerland – and so glad you’re enjoying my blog!
    @Ken G – Thank you!
    @Manzanita – How weird you’re the only one who’s commented on that caption!!! Somehow, I don’t see you as a ‘Griffith’ – doesn’t seem quite exotic enough!! Hope your week’s rocking along nicely …
    @Friko – You’re very kind! The REAL reason is I’m a slow writer, often distracted by other things!!

  9. @Saucy Kod – AMAZING that birds would be a link between 2 such disparate places!! And the snake made it even more memorable!
    @ladyfi – Thank you! I’m so chuffed to get praise from a photographer of your calibre! Make my day ANYTIME!
    @Nathalie – Make it happen, girlfriend! You won’t regret it!! Most of the land is green at present – so much rain!
    @FotoAnna – Thank you for visiting! It’s always wonderful to show my world to someone so far away!! I love the drama of lighthouses!!
    @EG Wow – I find the whole bird thing – distance, timing, origin – just AMAZING! Almost enough to make me forget the snake – but not quite!
    @Gattina – Thank you! It’s even better for real!!

  10. @Shannara – well, you’ve come to the right blog for sun and heat!! Why not drop in whenever you need a ‘fix’!!
    @Arija – AAARRGGH! Sorry, my bad. We’ve just spent ages cutting back the watsonias – I’ve got them on the brain!! Visited your link, but I haven’t got ‘permission’?
    @NatureFootstep – Welcome and thanx! It’s my fave too …
    @Arti – I think us snake-scaredy cats are the normal ones!!
    @aka Penelope – yes, it makes you wonder why they have to travel so far when it’s clearly so traumatic. Maybe they can only breed in specific climatic conditions?
    @Carver – thank you, my work is done!
    @Tina’s Picstory – Welcome, and thanx! That’s wonderful praise coming from you – I love your work too!

  11. I sent You the invitation, so if only You would like to visit me, there is no problem :)))

    I will read Your blog with pleasure, because thanks to it I am able to learn so many interesting things about Australia. And these pictures… :)))

  12. I love lighthouses! Here in Canada, they are selling off some of them to private buyers. My Husby wants to live in one. Interesting site. Chalk up one more reason to visit!

  13. That looks beautiful, great shots. I’ve run into snakes in the wild here several times. One time I accidentally ran over a rattlesnake while mountain biking – I didn’t stop to see if it was okay!

  14. Wow! the first shot is so gorgeous! I have also circumnavigated with you to finally see this beautiful lighthouse!

  15. Fantastic. Or yes, quite amazing, like your blog.

    No wonder you can’t do posts in 20 mins: you pack in such a lot.

  16. Love your pics. I don’t like the weather in Sweden now, it’s cold and it’s getting colder. Last winter we had between -25 to -30 degrees celsius for months. Not fun and the summer that just ended had about a week of nice weather.

    I really need the sun and the heat! =)

  17. I’m glad you turned “girl” at the sight of the snake. And Mae West would have set you up on a date with W.C. Fields for that fine remark about the lighthouse.
    My married name used to be Griffith (without the s) A bit of useless information. Have a stimulating week, my dear.

  18. thank you for visiting my blog and for your invitation for red alert. I can;t find any thing on your blog that leads me to it.:(((
    I love this blog and to be able to see places that I would never see. I like to take people around my country Holland and to different countries in Europe where we go on a trip or vacation.
    Have a nice day.

  19. Lovely photos. Sorry about the snakes, though. I think it’s amazing the shearwaters arrive at just about the same date every year in spite of the huge distance they travel.

  20. I’ve dreamed about the place, checked out maps and read brochures but never got a chance to go… perhaps one day ?

    Your blog is a joy to read. My fascination for the vast brown land is as strong as ever.

  21. WOW, for a second there, I thought I was in Atlantic Canada. Great shot and great Blog, minus the snake.
    Beautiful Photos Red. Thanks

  22. Your writing style is creative, indeed, and the pictures nicely reflect the wonders you see on your adventures. The issue about the birds caught my attention. We’ve had birds dying in droves, at times, in North American for varying reasons. I once watched a program about the flight patterns of various species of our feathered friends and am utterly impressed by the drama and sometimes trauma they endure on their quests.

  23. Gorgeous images! Isn’t Port Fairy just so beautiful!!
    I was hoping to take a trip down the Great Ocean Road this December when I visit my parents on the Mornington Peninsula but we have so much else planned!! Oh well… next time!
    I just stumbled on you blog… I am your newest follower!

  24. A fascinating place. Loved the pics of Griffith Island. I am so afraid of snakes, so that would have killed me!!!
    Have a fabulous week ahead:)

  25. I agree with Courtney, blogging is indeed a wonderful way to be able to enjoy those fantastic places we may never be able to visit! Your photos are fantastic! And how beautiful it is! Thanks for sharing!


  26. Thanks for popping over and those red flowers in my post are gladioli of a previous era not watsonias which are pretty but can become a pest.

    I love Griffith Island and thought I had posted about it some time ago but could not find the post just now.
    We saw quite a few birds and a lot of dead mutton birds as well.
    Isn’t it a great place?
    Sorry you got such an allergic reaction to the snake . . .

  27. @Liz – Welcome and thanx for following! We’ve been trying to get to the GOR for ages as well – a longer trip is on the cards!
    @Barb – Haha! The snack disappeared almost as fast as the snake did!!
    @Suzy – Welcome, and thanx! The first is my favourite as well!
    @Gladys – I hope so too! You won’t regret it …

  28. @Courtney – A virtual snake beats the hell out of the real thing too!
    @Pieces of Sunshine – This was our reconnaissance trip! Next time we’ll have longer to see everything (including the bakery we missed)!
    @Sylvia K – That’s what I love too! Thanx for dropping in!!
    @Leovi – On a warm, humid day, the blues are AMAZING!
    @bettyl – Thanx! Glad you enjoyed it!! Plenty more to come!!
    @stardust – Welcome and thanx! So glad you enjoyed it – I’ve got plenty more to learn about that area!
    @VioletSky – death is a part of life, and danger sharpens the senses to enhance enjoyment! Welcome, and thanx for visiting!

  29. @Andrew – Yours was bigger than mine!! I’ve re-posted with a link to your pic!! But I’m with R – RUN LIKE HELL!!
    @Glen – The mongoose is my preferred pet, and Rikki Tiki Taavi my personal hero!
    @SFlaGuy – Haha! You’re very charitable – I actually forgot to shoot off the pix because I was too busy teletransporting myself to another location! But you’re right about the red face …
    @Ken G – No problem! I was just going to thank you for visiting and have a look at what you do!

  30. What a fabulous landscape you’ve photographed. I don’t even mind that you didn’t get a photo ofthe snake, but I do wish you’d have included a pic of your snack!

  31. :)))

    My blog is secured with the password. Entry requires an invitation. Of course there is no problem, I can open it at any time for a new reader, only just I write in Polish :)))

  32. Red, this post of yours is why I love blogs, blogging and bloggers. I may never get to see a place like this in real life, but your beautiful post and photos have let me experience it nonetheless. Thank you.

  33. Wow, Wow, and Wow! Love these shots. What a beautiful place. Not very Red though. Maybe your face was from Shrieking at a poor little snake. I see no evidence of either though. I would imagine you forgot to click off a few photos due to the sprint back to the bakery.

  34. @Dianne – Haha! It’s easy to insinuate it, and SO worth it, just for the reaction!!
    @Jayne – Yeah … RIGHT – NOT!!!! But Pilchard would – brave, or foolhardy? YOU decide!

  35. Love that name Twitcher – must remember to use it in conversation someday – somewhere.
    I’ve only ever driven through Pt Fairy must stop off and explore more next time.

  36. @Beach Bum – I’m honoured! Still amazes me that I can post – and halfway round the world someone likes my shot!! And the jury’s out on whether small deadly snakes are more or less scary than large deadly reptiles!
    @magsx2 – the funny thing is, I don’t remember moving …
    @Ken G – Thank you so much! I tried to visit your blog, but no link on your profile??
    @NJAMB – And they get twitchier the closer they come to a lifer!! OZ has 9 of the worlds 10 deadliest snakes, more’s the pity! Glad you liked the pic – now I know what to say to P when he complains I’m taking too long …
    @Kath – Lucky you! Either they’re worse this year, or I’m a snake magnet. I choose the former!!!
    @Windsmoke – I’m slowly learning to stay calm and carry on, but this one was SO unexpected, given we’d been walking through long grass beforehand (where you’d expect to see snakes) and seen nothing!

  37. Bonza photos, the poor snake was probably more frightened of you when you started shrieking like a girl. I’m not afraid of snakes, if i see one which i have on many occasions i just give it a wide birth and keep going :-).

  38. We were there at the same time last year and saw our share of Mutton Birds. Snakes, I’m glad to say, didn’t show their faces!

  39. Twitcher is a good name for a birdwatcher!

    Aren’t most of the snakes in Australia poisonous? I would have jumped, too! I have a strict “Don’t mess with me, I won’t mess with you” policy when it comes to snakes.

    Beautiful pictures, as always! I especially like the composition of the first picture. It looks professionally done!

  40. But a frisson of danger changes everything – and an element of uncertainty elevates the ordinary, or even just plain old pleasant, into something more remarkable, doesn’t it?

    LOL!!!! Closest I came to something similar driving up to a stubborn alligator that decided to take a rest in the middle of a narrow country road between two ponds.

    provides a breeding haven for Short-tailed Shearwater (Puffinus tenuirostris), commonly known as mutton birds

    I consider myself an environmentalist but I’d give that one an okay.

    Griffiths Island Lighthouse, Port Fairy Victoria

    Saved that picture for my computer wallpaper.

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